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A heartwarming goal

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-09 06:47

A scene from the award-winning film Football on the Roof: The girls practice kick ups, a soccer skill. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Movie about rural soccer players focuses on teenage girls and seeks to inspire audiences to follow dreams, Xu Fan reports.

In late 2018, Fei Yu, a filmmaker from Sichuan province, ventured into the remote villages of Yunnan province in search of inspiration for his directorial debut feature.

During the monthslong journey, one idea captivated him as he watched children playing soccer in a village called Shitoucheng ("stone city"), which is located around 110 kilometers north of Lijiang.

The hospitable children offered the then 24-year-old green walnuts, and he was mesmerized by the village's breathtaking mountainside location. Its 100-odd homes, bordered on three sides by sheer cliffs that create a natural fortress, stand densely packed on terraces carved into the mountain face, overlooking a rushing torrent below. Due to the slope and slight drop between houses, it did not seem to be difficult to leap from one rooftop to another.

As a gentle breeze swept through the valley, Fei listened to the distant sounds of horses neighing and children laughing and a vivid image began to form in his mind — that of a group of children playing soccer atop the village roofs.

That image inspired the opening scene of Football on the Roof, and after taking home the jury special award in the films market project section of the 2023 China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, the film was released across the Chinese mainland on April 20.

The film tells the journey of a teenage girl, Aime, who's passionate about soccer. She harbors the hope that by advancing to the finals in a provincial competition, her mother, who has left their rural hometown to work in a big city, might see her on television.

Facing many challenges, including making uniforms from discarded cloth sacks, the protagonist convinces her elder sister and her classmates to start a soccer team and persuades a former soccer-star-turned-fruit-vendor to coach them. Her determination pays off as she is eventually selected to join the provincial team and participate in a Sino-Japanese match.

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